Love him for his audacious ambition or hate him for his tone-deaf ruthlessness, Travis Kalanick is a headline-grabbing corporate villain for the ages. Uber, the privately held company he runs from his base in San Francisco, has become a global phenomenon in the mere six years since it first began connecting ride-seeking urbanites with drivers via a simple smartphone app. Now operating in 76 countries, Uber booked $20 billion worth of rides worldwide in 2016 and brought in $ 6,5 billion in revenue.
As its business has boomed, the startup’s investors have continued to bet big on Kalanick’s creation. To date the company has raised $17 billion in debt and venture capital, and has been accorded a gargantuan market value of $69 billion. At the same time, Kalanick himself has become infamous – seen by many as a brash, win-at-all-costs entrepreneur who’ll flout any rule to succeed, as well as a bro-in-chief enabler presiding over a sexist corporate culture.
A new book by Fortune executive editor Adam Lashinsky, ‘Wild Ride – Inside Uber’s Quest for World Domination’ recounts the company’s stunning rise—and its headlong plunge into controversy. Lashinsky’s quest to tell the Uber story got off to a bumpy start: Kalanick at first threatened to torpedo his project before it started by hiring a competing author to write an authorized account. Over time, Kalanick relented and agreed to cooperate, and Lashinsky conducted hours of interviews with Kalanick and other Uber executives. In the following excerpt, Lashinsky walks the streets of San Francisco with Kalanick as the CEO confronts a nagging concern: Does the public’s perception of him match reality? Is he really an asshole?
- “Is he really an asshole”, Fortune-editor Adam Lashinsky tried to find out in ‘Wild Ride – Inside Uber’s Quest for World Domination’.